ADA Round-Up: Legislative Captions, Reasonable Accommodations, and Litigation Data

by: David Titmus

Welcome to the latest edition of “ADA in the News,” featuring recent news, updates, events, and rulings regarding the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Florida ADA Suit Can Move Forward

Exterior photo of the front of the Florida Capitol BuildingA federal appeals court earlier this month cleared the way for a lawsuit alleging that the Florida House and Senate violated the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) by not captioning its online videos of legislative meetings.

The ruling by the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals means that the suit can move forward against the state House and Senate and Florida State University, which owns public-broadcasting station WFSU-TV. The decision upholds a lower court judge’s refusal to dismiss the case.

The lawsuit alleges that a lack of closed captioning prevents members of the deaf and hard-of-hearing community from following legislative proceedings.

The case, filed last year by the National Association of the Deaf and a disability rights activist, claims Florida’s refusal to provide captions for legislative meetings violates federal law, including Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act. Title II makes it illegal for local governments to discriminate against individuals who are disabled when providing services, programs, or activities.

The state argued that the lawsuit should be dismissed because of sovereign immunity, which generally shields states from being sued for damages in federal courts.

Reasonable Accommodations

Exterior photo of the front of California State University, Los AngelesA former student at California State University, Los Angeles, has filed a federal lawsuit against the school alleging that it failed to provide sign language and communication services, which forced him to drop out of his graduate-level studies.

The complaint says that the student, who is deaf, required an American Sign Language interpreter or a Communication Access Realtime Translation (CART) speech-to-text service in order to follow classroom dialogue.

The suit claims a professor refused to allow captioning of videos in one class, while another allegedly prevented CART captioners from reviewing course material before lectures in order to provide more accurate captions for the terminology used in that class. It also says that the student was given an “unqualified ASL interpreter” who lacked the skills to interpret the grad-level course materials.

The California State University system argued that the university did provide reasonable accommodations for the student.

Dealership Settles Suit, Commits to Recruiting Deaf and Hard-of-Hearing Applicants

Cars lined up for sale on a car lotA Honolulu car dealership has settled a disability discrimination suit filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).

The EEOC alleged that Cutter Mazda of Honolulu failed to hire a deaf applicant due to his disability. Such conduct violates the ADA, which prohibits employers from making employment decisions based on an individual’s disability.

As part of the settlement agreement, Cutter Mazda will pay $42,000 in relief, provide ADA training to employees, and train its management and human resources employees on deaf culture, with training to be provided by the State of Hawaii’s Disability and Communication Access Board.

The dealership also agreed to increase its recruitment and hiring efforts by notifying the state’s vocational rehabilitation services of its intent to recruit and accept job applications on a rolling basis from deaf individuals for all entry level jobs.

Adult Websites Target of Accessibility Suit

A New York man, who is deaf, filed a class action suit against three pornographic websites, arguing that he cannot fully enjoy their content without closed captions.

In a filing in New York federal court earlier this month, the man sued adult websites Pornhub, Redtube, and YouPorn on the grounds that they violated the Americans with Disabilities Act.

According to the complaint, the man wants the sites to provide closed captioning, and also is seeking undisclosed compensatory damages.

Pornhub released a statement asserting that the website does have a closed captions category available for users.

The plaintiff in this matter previously has sued Fox News, the New York Post, and other outlets alleging similar ADA violations on their websites.

EEOC Enforcement and Litigation Data

A little more than a third of the charges of workplace discrimination received by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in 2019 were disability discrimination claims.

The EEOC this month released data on the 72,675 charges of workplace discrimination the agency received in fiscal year 2019. The numbers show that workplace retaliation continued to be the most frequently filed charge with the agency, followed by disability-, race-, and sex-related claims.

The agency received a little more than 24,000 disability discrimination claims in 2019.

A full breakdown is available on the EEOC’s website.

How VITAC Can Help

VITAC company logoAs the largest captioning company in the country, VITAC works closely with caption clients, viewers, and advocates. Though not all video must be captioned by law, we strongly believe that everything should be as captions provide myriad benefits for all.

Providing accessible solutions – whether it be via captioned content, sign language interpreters, or other reasonable accommodations – not only satisfies ADA requirements but also is the right thing to do.